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Vance opens flight-line facility to CRAFT better pilots

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Alyssa Letts
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Vance Air Force Base opened a flight-line peak-performance laboratory Jan. 28.

Local government officials, and Team Vance Airmen gathered to watch 71st Flying Training Wing leadership cut the ribbon at the grand opening.

Col Jay Johnson, the 71st Flying Training Wing commander, presided over the ceremony with Chief Master Sgt. Kristy Earls, the 71st FTW command chief; Col. Erick Turasz, the 71st Operations Group commander, and CRAFT leadership from 19th Air Force and Vance.

The lab, which consists of gym equipment and cognitive training technology for instructor and student pilots, is part of a monumental shift in pilot-training through the first-ever training base implementation of CRAFT. 

CRAFT is a healthcare effort designed from the 56th Fighter Wing Optimizing the Human Weapon System Team at Luke AFB, Arizona. In 2018, they devised a new way to approach pilot treatment in order to ensure professional care that matches the high-speed pace of fighter pilots.

The implementation of CRAFT at Vance is an initiative to ensure professional care -- that CRAFT teaches -- into pilot culture, instead of trying to change bad habits later on, said Maj. Ryan Holets, the program manager of CRAFT. 

“Our goal is to teach them healthy habits and lifestyles from day one and make it a part of being a professional aviator,” said Holets. 

The CRAFT Team at Vance has been active since October 2020. At that time, the plans started for a flight-line lab that pilots could pop into for aid at any given time. At the lab, they can see coaches in different categories: strength and conditioning, nutrition and cognitive ability. 

For the past year, the team has been using a room in the base gym to train pilots. Now through the opening of the new lab, all of the training is right at their finger-tips. 

After the success of Vance’s CRAFT team, the other training bases are following suit to make sure pilots across the Air Force are all being taught the same fundamental practices to make them better, said Holets. 

As of January 2022, the Columbus AFB, Mississippi, CRAFT Team is active. The other two pilot training bases -- Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Laughlin AFB, Texas -- are following suit. 

“We spend over a million dollars per student pilot, so why would we not maximize this initial investment in our future leaders,” said Turasz. “CRAFT ensures they have the mental and physical resiliency to serve our nation in a future battlespace that will be highly contested and more lethal than what we’ve experienced.”